Gov. Pat Quinn's approach to legislation is sometimes intentionally backward.
Old habits die hard, particularly for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
Before he became the accidental governor following Rod Blagojevich's impeachment and removal from office, Quinn flitted around the edges of the political establishment, taking every opportunity he could find to insult establishment politicos, particularly those in the Legislature.
Using ridicule and outright demagoguery — sometimes justified and sometimes not — Quinn built his public reputation and his political career at the expense of others.
So it was not particularly surprising that Quinn responded antagonistically when legislators of both parties criticized his call for a one-day special session in Springfield to address the sorry circumstances of the state's public pensions.
Legislators suggested that Quinn's timing was poor and the issue too complicated to do in one day. Quinn shot back that perhaps legislators were too wedded to their golf games to take a day off for the public's work.
That kind of tit-for-tat goes with the territory in politics, and it's mostly harmless.
Of greater significance, however, is Quinn's demagogic and legally dubious ploy in the aftermath of the mass shootings in Aurora, Colo.
Quinn took a piece of legislation — SB 6812, intended to allow Illinois citizens to have ammunition shipped to them from businesses within the state — and used his amendatory veto authority to draft a completely separate bill to ban so-called "assault weapons" and high-capacity magazines in Illinois.
Stating that his "foremost duty" is the protection of the public, Quinn said his proposed ban will "make Illinois a safer place to live."
"Right now, anyone with an FOID card in Illinois is permitted by law to purchase an assault weapon. Illinois also does not impose any restrictions on the purchase or possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines, which automatically feed ammunition into a firearm chamber to allow the user to fire repeatedly without reloading," he said.
State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, who sponsored the legislation Quinn rewrote, was among the many legislators angered by Quinn's action. He called it "politically motivated" because Quinn "wants a piece of the publicity" stemming from public outrage over the mass shootings in Colorado. Another mass shooting Sunday in Milwaukee, Wis., will, no doubt, add fuel to the fire Quinn is stoking.
Quinn, obviously, is sincere in his opposition to assault weapons, and he's far from alone in that respect. But Luechtefeld is correct in his assessment that Quinn's action is just another display of demagoguery from a master of the tactic.
Quinn's action is going nowhere because it is an abuse, not a legitimate exercise, of his gubernatorial authority.
Illinois governors have the power to amendatorily veto legislation passed by the Illinois House and Senate. But amendatory veto authority does not allow a governor to completely rewrite a bill.
Many may recall when Quinn tried to use his amendatory veto power to veto the legislative scholarship program. The Legislature simply ignored his changes, allowing the bill to die an ignoble death.
Legislators will do the same thing again.
House Speaker Michael Madigan has made it a practice to carefully examine amendatory vetoes for any sign of an abuse of gubernatorial authority. If he decides this amendatory veto is improper, he can simply ignore the bill and allow it to die for lack of legislative concurrence.
Quinn's amendatory veto turns the legislative process on its head.
The House and Senate pass legislation and send it to the governor for approval or veto, not the other way around. Using the legislative scholarship program again as an example, many will recall that the General Assembly passed a repeal of the program that Quinn signed into law.
If Quinn wants a ban on assault weapons, he can ask the Legislature to pass one. Perverting the process, as Quinn is trying to do with his amendatory veto, is not the legally proper way to achieve his goal. But Quinn knows that. He also knew that his amendatory veto would draw lots of headlines and a measure of public support. The demagogue in him believes that's enough — at least for now.